Don't underestimate need for strong military

It is unfortunate that those who have very little knowledge of military history and defence matters have made general comments on Singapore's defence policy ("Open debate needed on defence policy" by Dr Paul Tambyah of the Singapore Democratic Party; yesterday).

Singapore veterans who have been through World War II and Konfrontasi would remember their experiences during those difficult periods.

The former period, in 1942, showed how unprepared the armed forces were to face the onslaught of the Japanese troops.

However, the latter period proved that, with a strong military that included modern naval, air force and army assets, the British and Commonwealth forces could successfully defend Malaysia and Singapore, and deter then Indonesian President Sukarno from carrying out his expansionist plans.

A strong military is a strong deterrent, which is important for Singapore's defence.

We should never be so naive as to think that all will be well in the region in future years.

Jealousies and aggressive policies could develop.

But such adversaries would be deterred by our strong and modern military that can not only protect, but also reach out to targets in potential enemy territories.

There are some who think that the years spent in national service should be further reduced, but this is unhealthy thinking.

As our population dwindles in numbers, we also need to train our military with the most advanced military technology to ensure an active and robust deterrent force.

This priority includes the possible purchase of the F-35 jets or whatever advanced aircraft is finally chosen for the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

We have our defence experts and scientists to make the necessary assessments wisely for future needs.

It is important not to believe in hearsay.

It is naive to think that the situation could not change in neighbouring countries, and that we will always have peace in the region.

The number of terrorism hot spots and the threat from militant groups in neighbouring countries have increased.

We can ensure the well-being of our citizens as well as foreign investors only when their interests are secure.

This guarantee can be ensured if we continue to have a strong defence policy encompassing a strong, high-tech military deterrent force.

Adrian Villanueva

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Don't underestimate need for strong military'. Print Edition | Subscribe